The Virgin Mary cradles the body of her crucified son. The monumental scale of the figures and the pyramidal composition convey the magnitude of Christ’s death and the suffering of his mother. Two sorrowful angels guide the viewer to contemplate Christ’s wounded hand and his crown of thorns. Yet Jesus is otherwise depicted as young and unharmed, in order to express the sanctity of his divine body.
The Pietà was commissioned by Annibale’s recurrent patron Cardinal Odoardo Farnese in 1599–1600. In composition and subject it is explicitly inspired by Michelangelo’s sculpture of the same name in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome. The Capodimonte Pietà was one of Annibale’s most successful works. Several copies and variants were commissioned, which can be seen today in museums in London, Paris, and Vienna.